Brain Tumors In Dogs (Signs, Symptoms, Treatments) 

Brain Tumors in DogsBrain tumors are a devastating condition that can impact our favorite canine friends. Though brain tumors in dogs are not particularly common, they can make their way into our dog’s life and cause serious medical concern.

In this article we will dive into the details of brain tumors in dogs and discuss what you can expect if your dog is diagnosed with a brain tumor. 

Primary or Secondary Brain Tumor?

Though we have all heard the diagnosis at some point, we may not fully understand what this means for our furry friends. To ensure that you fully understand your dog’s diagnosis, let’s take a look at the details. 

When discussing brain tumors in dogs, you will likely hear the terms primary and secondary. A primary brain tumor in dogs is a tumor that originates from the tissue of the brain directly, while a secondary brain tumor is one that is a result of metastasis (disease spreading throughout the body) from other parts of the body. While every brain tumor is just an abnormal growth of cells, they can each vary in terms of their original cause.

Why Do Dogs Get Brain Tumors?

Just like any other medical diagnosis in dogs, we are not always sure of the exact cause. While some brain tumors in dogs seem to develop out of nowhere, there are a few diseases that can cause the development of brain tumors. 

A common cause of many brain tumors is a disease that can cause metastasis to the brain tissue, such as cancer. When an original tumor can migrate through the body and make its way into the brain tissue, it will often result in the formation of a brain tumor. In situations like this, it is often difficult to treat due to systemic disease. 

When it comes to brain tumors that originate in the brain tissue, this can be a bit more random. A meningioma is a benign brain tumor that originates from the brain tissue or surrounding brain tissue, and is not caused by metastasis of another disease. Though old age and breed disposition has been linked to these tumors, there is no exact cause. 

Are Some Dogs Prone To Brain Tumors?

Yes, some breeds are more prone to developing meningiomas (tumors that originate in the brain). Meningiomas are most common in long nosed breeds, but can impact other canine friends as well. The breeds that seem to be the most prone to developing brain tumors include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Border Collies
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • and Boxers

Signs & Symptoms of A Brain Tumor in Dogs

A Brain tumor has known to cause an array of concerning neurological symptoms that can impact a dogs daily life. While some brain tumor symptoms may coincide with other symptoms if the tumor is a result of another disease, there are some main neurological symptoms to be aware of. Some of the most common symptoms of brain tumors in dogs include:

  • Seizures
  • Head tilt
  • Changes in behavior such as aggression, confusion, etc.
  • Unsteady gait or wobbly movement
  • Changes in vision
  • Nystagmus (rapid movement of the eyes causing dizziness)
  • Hypersensitivity in the neck
  • Head pressing
  • Disorientation
  • Circling
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Change in appetite

While each symptom is possible in dogs with brain tumors, the most common symptom of brain tumors in dogs are seizures. Many trips to the canine neurologist are due to a sudden onset of seizures, so it is important to always seek veterinary care if your dog develops this symptom. 

Complications of Brain Tumors In Dogs

Brain tumors in dogs can deeply impact your pup’s life. Not only can a dog experience serious symptoms if they have developed a brain tumor, but they can also fall victim to a few medical complications as well. Some common complications of brain tumors in dogs include:

Frequent Seizures

Since brain tumors can interfere with the normal electrical activity in the brain, this can result in frequent seizures. Not only can these seizures be extremely uncomfortable for our furry friends, but can cause a major decline in their neurological health. 

Vestibular Disease

Vestibular disease is characterized by severe nystagmus, disorientation, wobbly gait, and even the inability to stand or balance. It can be a result of any changes within the brain or the inner ear, making a brain tumor a common cause. 

Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia has been tied to brain tumors in dogs for a few reasons. Dogs are known to aspirate their saliva and other fluids during seizures and can also aspirate saliva due to a decline in tongue strength due to brain tumors. 

Severe Disorientation

Since a brain tumor can distort the normal electrical activity and function of the brain, this can cause severe disorientation in dogs. 

Treatments for Brain Tumors In Dogs

Treatment for a brain tumor in dogs will vary based on the type of tumor that is diagnosed. Since brain tumors in dogs can range from cancer to benign tumors, each dog will require their own treatment plan that is tailored to fit their needs. 

  • Surgery: In some cases of a benign brain tumor, surgical removal of the tumor can be curative. This will involve the help of a board certified veterinary neurologist that can skillfully remove the brain tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: If the tumor is unable to be surgically removed or is the result of metastasis, chemotherapy may be an option. Chemotherapy can help to shrink the tumor, and possibly reduce symptoms due to the change in size. This will often involve the help of a veterinary specialist, though some standard vet clinics can perform chemotherapy. 
  • Radiation: Radiation can also be used to reduce the size of a brain tumor when surgery is not an option, or can be used after surgery to take care of any tissue that has been left behind. If your dog does require radiation to treat their brain tumor, they will need to seek the help of an experienced radiation therapist. 
  • Medical Management: Some dogs may benefit from the addition of daily medication. Dogs with brain tumors may require steroids to decrease the severity of symptoms, as well as anti-seizure medications to control their seizure activity. 

No matter the route of treatment that your dog takes, you can expect to have a close relation with your veterinarian going forward. With a diagnosis as serious as a brain tumor, your dog will need to have frequent examinations to ensure that their overall health is closely monitored. 

End Stages of Brain Tumors in Dogs

If your dog has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you may wonder what this means for their life going forward. The prognosis of brain tumors can be guarded to poor, so it is important to be aware of the end stages of this diagnosis. 

Since brain tumors in dogs can impact their neurological health, you can expect to look out for any severe neurological symptoms. The end stages of brain tumors involve serious neurological symptoms that make their daily life challenging, and are unable to be managed with medical intervention. 

The end stages of a brain tumor might involve frequent seizures, serious changes in behavior, head pressing, nystagmus, disorientation, increased vocalization, weight loss, anorexia, and any other major shifts in behavior.

When To Euthanize Your Dog With A Brain Tumor

So when should you euthanize a dog with a brain tumor? Saying goodbye to our pups is heartbreaking, especially with a challenging diagnosis like this. To help you make the best decision for your canine companion, let’s dive into a progression timeline of brain tumors in dogs. 

As we discussed above, there are a few symptoms to expect in the end stages of a brain tumor diagnosis. These symptoms can let us know that our dogs are struggling, and that their symptoms can no longer be managed with medical intervention. If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms that we mentioned above and can no longer be managed by your veterinarian, it may be time to say goodbye. 

Severe neurological symptoms and disorientation can cause extreme suffering in our dogs. When we have the ability to end their suffering, it can be the purest act of love in situations like this. If you think it may be time to say goodbye, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian about your dog’s options. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, brain tumors in dogs are a serious diagnosis that can impact their daily life. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, so that you can be better educated on the topic of brain tumors going forward.

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